Trust in the Time of COVID-19: Global Polling Shows Government Only Institution Trusted to Lead World out of Pandemic Crisis

Government is the most trusted source of information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the institution most trusted to lead the world out of the current economic crisis, new research from The Australia Institute’s International & Security Affairs Program has revealed.

The Australia Institute conducted surveys of over 1,000 people each in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy and South Korea between 1 and 14 April 2020, asking a series of COVID-19 related questions on government response to the crisis, trust in official advice, employment security and the potential for economic recovery.

Australians were equal with America as the most likely to report having already lost their jobs and were the least confident that they will keep their jobs into the future, but maintained high trust in government compared to their American counterparts. New Zealanders were both the happiest with their government’s response to COVID-19 and recorded the highest level of trust in government advice and recovery.

Key findings:

–          Four in five New Zealanders (83%) and seven in 10 Australians (71%) said their governments’ response to COVID-19 has been good or better. Just half of Americans (49%) said the same.

–          Australian and UK residents were the most likely to say that the government should take the lead regarding economic recovery (both 64%), followed by NZ (62%).

–          Only in the United States did fewer than half say the government should take the lead in the economic recovery (43%), though it was still the most trusted institution to do so.

–          The government was the most trusted source of information in most countries, with an average of 73% trust across the six nations surveyed. Even in the USA, where the lowest rate of trust was recorded, three in five said they trusted advice from government (57%).

–          Australians and Americans were equally the most likely to report having already lost their job (both 16%) and Australians were the least confident that they will keep their jobs and hours in the future (34%).

“COVID-19 is affecting different nations around the world in very different ways, but the one unifying response appears to be a high level of trust in the institution of government,” said Ben Oquist, executive director of The Australia Institute.

“Government was the most likely source of advice to be deemed trustworthy across the nations surveyed, with information coming from family and friends the second most trusted source. When it comes to which institution is best trusted to lead the economic recovery from this point, government was the overwhelming favourite in all of the nations surveyed.

“It appears people the world over are putting a huge amount of trust in their governments right now. While Scott Morrison may want to espouse the virtues of a business-led recovery, it is clear that the Australian people want government to be at the centre of how we move forward as a nation.

“Australians are just as likely as Americans to have already lost their job and are more worried about their employment prospects, but have far higher faith in a government lead recovery than their counterparts from the USA.

“New Zealanders were the most positive about their government’s response to COVID-19, with Australians being the second happiest.

“The health and economic response to the current crisis has been a serious challenge for democratically elected governments the world over and each nation will emerge from this crisis changed in some way. Reassuringly, so far at least, faith in government has not fallen victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The full report, Global attitudes to COVID-19 pandemic and response, authored by Bill Browne is available here

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